Up in the Air is a rather unique film. Part romantic comedy, part witty social commentary, part coming-of-age drama, it manages to tell a compellingly original story for three quarters of its runtime, only to get a little generic at the end.
George Clooney stars as the white-collared Ryan Bingham, whose job is to basically fly from city to city just to lay people off. Normally, such a character wouldn't be so charismatic, but you've got to remember, this is Clooney. And it's the writing too. The filmmakers manage to portray Bingham in a way that allows the character to do some pretty crappy things in ways that actually endear him to the audience.
Bingham is a loner who lives out of a suitcase, and is pretty content to hop from city to city, hotel to hotel, quick hookup to quick hookup. He has no real anchor, no real family of his own, but as long as he's the axe man, it's all good. Until his boss decides to axe him. Ryan is grounded and tasked to train his replacement, a young woman by the name of Natalie Keener (Anna Kendrick). Naturally, cracks start to form on Bingham's tough exterior.
But it isn't until Bingham runs into Alex Goran (Vera Farmiga), his female doppelganger. At one point she even tells him, "Just think of me as you think of yourself, only with a vagina!" Coupled with the romantic heat generated by this encounter and the threat of being forever grounded, Bingham is forced to reevaluate his life.
From then on out, it all starts to become a much more by-the-numbers Hollywood coming of age/romantic comedy story. The resolution, while satisfying, is just a little too movie perfect.
Still, it's easy to see why this film has been getting such consistently good reviews. The uplifting nature of the story, combined with the commentary on corporate downsizing and Clooney's seemingly inexhaustible charm makes for a crowd-pleaser that will delight optimists and cynics alike. Director Jason Reitman delivers another nice dose of satire in his third outing, even though it goes a little soft in the end.
In these tough times, it's nice to see a film that can meditate on our woes so poignantly, yet still manage to leave us smiling in the end.